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Is Government Motors Trolling Your Blog?

September 18th, 2013 - 7:43 am

They seem to have been trolling The Truth About Cars, around the same time Robert Farago’s infamous (and prescient) “GM Deathwatch” series was really picking up steam. Here’s TTAC contributor Bertel Schmitt:

When I started writing for Thetruthaboutcars.com in 2008, I had access to an automated statistic that told us from which ISP our readers dialed-in. According to the stats, surprisingly many people accessed TTAC from their computer at General Motors. On the list, GM ranked right with AT&T and other biggies. TTAC founder Robert Farago, who was on some kind of a GM crusade, was proud that TTAC was so closely read at GM. GM did not stop at reading though. Some of TTAC’s most prolific commenters were and still are working for GM. Thousands of comments left at TTAC originated at General Motors, and from the same IP numbers as used by GM’s PR department.

I would have never noticed, wouldn’t it have been for a commenter who went by the name of “Jjster6.” Early this year, Jjster6 asked in the commenting section of TTAC whether another contributor had “sand in your vagina or something.” Jjster6 was a friend of robust language. It was time to take away his commenting privileges. The TTAC ban system blocked the IP number also, so care had to be taken not to ban other people who might use the same number. I ran the number, and found hundreds of comments from different people originating from the same number. This is common in large corporations. I ran the number through a service that does what is known as a “reverse DNS.” It showed Jjster6’s IP as being owned by “General Motors Corporation.”

I dug a little further and noticed that over the past years, more than 3,000 comments were posted from just two small subnets of the netblock owned by GM, and then from only a few IPs.

There’s more, all of it damning.

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All Comments   (4)
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It should be noted that "from only a few IPs" does not really mean "probably only N machines/people", but more likely that they're using NAT and there are entire offices/departments with only one public-facing IP address.

It was nice to see that at least some of the commenters made it absolutely clear that they were GM employees.

(As for the others, well, I suspect at least some were not operating Under Orders; after all, someone who works at GM is presumably likely to like cars, and TTAC is perhaps the best general car site I know of.

It'd be shocking if GM office employees weren't commenting on TTAC during work hours; likewise I expect Ford and Chrysler and Toyota and Honda employees to do the same.

The big negative I see there is not any of the above, it's the usual disguised marketroids/PR types pretending to be ordinary joes.

Sadly I suspect other carmakers all do the same thing. Bastard.

[Full disclosure: Like MrLion, though not as forcefully, I am not a BailoutMobile fan. I'd chew on glass before I'd buy a GM product. But fair is fair.)
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
"There’s more, all of it damning."

But not damning of GM per se. Every large organization has its pinpuds, using and abusing all they can.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
That's nothing new. If there's a corporate entity that is widely discussed somewhere, plan on at least a few PR droids keeping an eyeball on things there.

As well, Fargo's editorial policies back in the day (and still are, at TTAG) shared a lot of parallels with the Most Transparent Government in History, to put it bluntly. Many grains of salt ought be deployed.

And that's coming from someone who hates GM with the heat of a thousand suns.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is a difference between some PR droids monitoring such a site, and those same droids, commenting without full disclosure. When they post, courtesy requires that they say they work in GM PR, then say whether their post is an approved GM PR post, or their own opinion.

Of course, such courtesy is a thing of the past in our society.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
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